A few hours in Bourton on the Water, The Cotswolds Review
We chose Bourton on the Water as our base during our Cotswolds trip because it’s famously one of the Cotswold’s prettiest villages. We could tell just during the walk into the village alone that this wasn’t an exaggeration.
Bourton in the Water
The village was beautiful and full of traditional buildings.
There was a beautiful motor museum with a car model:
However the village is definitely most famous for the beautiful River Windrush running through, which gave the place its unofficial nickname as the Venice of the Cotswolds.
The biggest symbol of the winter season was the presence of the Bourton on the Water Christmas tree in the middle of the river.
Whilst in the village I also took the opportunity to visit Birdland, the Model Village and the Dragonfly Maze.
We went to Birdland for the penguins and I have no regrets.
Yes, Birdland was massive and the area reserved for the penguins was approximately 5% of the land.
Yes, there were over 500 different types of birds that weren’t penguins.
What can I say? Penguins are cute.
There were two types of penguins in the zoo: the small Humboldt penguins and the famous King Emperor penguins. These penguins were so popular they had a celebrity in Spike the King Emperor penguin who had its own Facebook and Twitter account.
We were less than a metre away from these amazing creatures and they appeared completely unfazed by the small surrounding crowd. I was a little tempted to touch them, but I resisted because that would be inappropriate.
We made sure to catch the penguins’ feeding time at 11:00 and it was fun to see the contrast between the penguins waddling on land and zipping through like lightning within the water.
The zoo worker was very knowledgeable and friendly with his penguin facts. Apparently these birds were so fussy with their food and such absolute cowards that they jumped out of the pool and ran away one day when a zoo worker threw in shark meat as food.
So needless to say the penguins were worth the entrance fee alone.
We did however visit the sprawling grounds and saw everything that Birdland had to offer. They were pretty cool too I guess:
There was a pelican which hung out by itself forever:
The flamingos really stood out in the morning sun:
The black swans reminded me of Leeds castle:
The grounds were as equally impressive as the creatures and there was an abundance of water features and greenery.
It was very impressive, the only part I wasn’t completely keen on was the area dedicated to dinosaurs named the Jurassic journey.
It just felt like an overgrown section of the park with dinosaur models dotted around.
The section for children to find fossils was pretty sweet though:
I recommend Birdland for the penguins.
The model village was an affordable and unique experience specific to Bourton on the Water. A charming and quiet visit, the tiny buildings replicated the real village at one ninth of the scale nearly perfectly.
I always felt that a model village was a very old fashioned form of entertainment, which fitted into the old fashioned Bourton on the Water perfectly. What did you do in the days before cellphones, internet and rapid transportation? Here lets stare at tiny versions of everything!
You could tell that this traditional feel was exactly what they were going for as soon as you approach the handsome Cotswold stone building with its cartoon signage.
There were small miniature boxes being showcased at the entrance to add to the feeling of stepping back in time, but I was taken out of this slightly by the curiously prison like entryway and foreign language signs. I had forgotten Bourton in the Water’s international reputation, especially with asian tourists, for a hot second.
This place had history and you could tell from the old fashioned statues and a plaque commemorating the model’s completion in 1940. Nowadays you’d be lucky to get a cardboard sign.
The mini buildings were made of the same Cotswold stone as in the full sized village and looked very realistic. This was especially true for the older structures which had some plant growths within their walls.
I found the tiny penguins in the miniature Bird-land especially cute.
River Windrush was recreated, although it looked a little bit dry that day.
The small bridges were cross-able and would make you feel like King Kong.
They’d even added a potted plant to represent the annual Christmas tree within the river. I think this was the only inaccurately scaled item in the area.
There were areas under construction which looked pretty weird next to fully sized objects.
We used the upside down periscope to view the buildings from a street level which was a neat trick.
The St Lawrence church building was geographically inaccurate in order to fit the historically important structure within the model village.
There were tiny details included such as furniture and books behind plastic windows.
There were tiny vehicles held in a small farm.
Funnily enough there were even smaller miniatures around.
The model village is a solid recommendation from me.
I like the concept of mazes more than the reality of them. I’m a fan of solving puzzles, but the actual experience of wandering through endless claustrophobic shrubbery can get boring. The joy is definitely in the stop or end points within the maze when efforts are placed in making them special.
The dragonfly maze was the best maze experience I’d had in my life.
The owners combined the maze with a treasure hunt and the ultimate goal was to find the golden dragonfly. This made exploring the maze a lot more purposeful, fun and there was real care and money placed into making the discovery of the dragonfly memorable.
When we paid the woman at the front desk the entrance fee we were given a piece of paper and a pencil for us to jot down all the clues within the maze which would help us work out the secret of locating the dragonfly. This meant a lot of frantic backpedalling within the maze to locate missing clues and half the fun was in deciphering these clues.
I do recommend that you skip the next bit if you want to visit the maze, because I did manage to work out the secret and the answer is in the spoilers below:
There were 14 numbered floor plaques dotted about the maze which spelt out the one sentence clue, here are all of the plaques:
Can you decipher the sentence?
This is the answer:
Place your hands on the monkeys and step on the Caterpillar and wait.
When you enter the building at the end of the maze and do as the instruction says, the giant frog lit up in the middle of the room would open its mouth and reveal the dragonfly.
I was very impressed by this as I generally am when anything electrical or magnetic is involved.
The Dragonfly maze is a strong recommendation from me.
Bourton on the Water has a lot to offer and this is by far one of my longest posts on the Cotswolds for a reason. There is plenty to do for people of all ages and I personally spent a lot longer here than I’d planned for the area. If you have time to visit only a select few villages in the Cotswolds, despite the cliche, make one of them Bourton in the Water.
Address: Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham
Address: Rissington Rd, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham GL54 2BN
Easter – Oct: 10:00 – 17:00
Nov – Mar: 10:00 – 16:00
Adult – £10.95
Child (3-15) – £7.95 (Under 3s are free)
Senior / Student – £9.95
Note that if you book online you could save 10%
Address: Bourton-on-the-Water Gloucestershire GL54 2AF
Summer: 10:00 – 18:00 (Last admission 17:45)
Winter: 10:00 – 16:00 (Last admission 15:45)
Adult – £4.25
Senior ( over 60 ) – £3.75
Child (3 to 13 years) – £3.25
Under 3 – Free
Address: Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham GL54 2BN
Opening hours: 10:30 – 17:00
Adults – £3.00
Under 12 – £2.50
Seniors – £2.50
Under 4’s – Free
2 Adults 2 Children – £9.00